On the first day of Black History Month, February 1, 2024, members of UE Local 150’s Durham City Workers Union chapter from the Solid Waste and Public Works departments met with Mayor Leonardo Williams and Mayor Pro Tem Mark-Anthony Middleton to discuss their demands for the Fiscal Year 2024-25 budget, to be voted on in June.
George Bacote, sanitation lead spokseperson, started off the meeting by sharing the difficulties that workers face such as working two jobs and many not being able to afford the skyrocketing cost of rent in Durham. Bacote also shared new information about the growing solid waste routes, that are likely to add even more work on the over-stretched workforce.
Union members reiterated their demands to raise wages to $25 per hour with a special emphasis on workers in Solid Waste and Public Works, who have been the main workers speaking out and participating in union actions. Workers also demanded that Solid Waste Operators be reclassified to a new job title to recognize the special skills they have beyond being “Maintenance Technicians.” Christopher Benjamin recommended the title of “Sanitation Engineers.”
The city has hired a consultant to put together a compensation study with recommendations on how to adjust city workers pay, which is expected to be out within a month. Local 150 is encouraging city workers to take time off work to attend city budget retreats being held in mid-February and at the beginning of March, to make their voices heard.
During the meeting, workers also reiterated that the city needs to think bigger about where it finds tax revenues to fund the needs of the workers and the community.
From Bull City Speaks!, the newsletter of the Durham City Workers Union chapter of UE Local 150.